Characteristics of hands-on simulations with added value for innovative secondary and higher vocational education

A.E. Khaled, J.T.M. Gulikers, H.J.A. Biemans, M. van der Wel, M. Mulder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The intentions with which hands-on simulations are used in vocational education are not always clear. Also, pedagogical-didactic approaches in hands-on simulations are not well conceptualised from a learning theory perspective. This makes it difficult to pinpoint the added value that hands-on simulations can have in an innovative vocational curriculum that not only aims at developing technical and procedural skills, but also at developing competencies and professional identity. This paper introduces a more explicit conceptual discussion regarding the opportunities for using hands-on simulations in innovative curricula. A systematic literature review aimed at positioning hands-on simulations in relation to other work-related contexts, based on their learning environment characteristics and outcomes, shows that certain constructivist characteristics and outcomes are underexposed in empirical research about simulations. The results of an additional in-depth analysis of literature specifically focusing on two fundamental characteristics of constructive vocational learning (i.e. authenticity and increasing students’ ownership) propose ideas about how hands-on simulations can have added value to innovative curricula. This paper concludes with concrete strategies for designing and implementing hands-on simulations from the social constructive learning theory with the aim of stimulating not only technical and procedural skills, but also competencies and professional identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-490
JournalJournal of Vocational Education and Training
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • competence
  • curriculum innovation
  • learning theory
  • vocational education & training
  • vocational HE


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